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Need a Number? AT&T Wants to Drop White Pages Directories for Online

Posted September 28, 2007

RALEIGH - Ma Bell doesn’t want to deliver you a white pages phone directory any more, and the Public Staff at the North Carolina Utilities Commission has questions about the idea.

AT&T, the new parent of Bell South, filed a request with the Utilities Commission on Friday seeking permission to halt distribution of the free directories. Instead, the nation’s largest phone company wants people to use online directories through the Internet, use an optional CD that would have the listings, or have people call and request a bound paper edition.

The idea was not greeted with enthusiasm by the Commission’s Public Staff.

“They have offered the option to delivery a directory if you call and request it,” said John Garrison of the Public Staff, “but if you wait to request it when you need the number it’s too late.”

Since not all people have access to the Internet, Garrison added, “That is a problem.”

The CD option also presents problems, Garrison cautioned. “It’s something else we have to look at completely,” he said.

AT&T is the first phone company to make such a request, but it did not come as a complete surprise, Garrison said.

“We have been talking with them about it,” he explained. “The specific details we did not know until they filed.”

The Public Staff had no specific opinion to offer “right now,” he added. However, the request is expected to be on the agenda for the Utilities Commission meeting on October 15. “We will be making a recommendation to the commission” at that time, Garrison said.

AT&T provides service across much of the Triangle, the Goldsboro and Wilmington areas as well as much of the Piedmont and western North Carolina.

The optional directory offering would be made in the Raleigh and Charlotte markets, AT&T said in the filing. Other areas would still receive directories.

A phone book containing business and government listings would still be delivered, AT&T said in the filing.

If the Utilities Commission accepts the proposal, AT&T said people who request delivery of a white pages book would receive one within 10 days.

Otherwise, phone listings would be found on two Web sites.

“These changes reflect AT&T’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship and changing consumer preferences,” AT&T said in the filing.

Clifton Metcalf, an AT&T spokesman in Charlotte, told The Associated Press that the company wants to try the idea in North Carolina before expanding it elsewhere.

"The potential is just tremendous," Metcalf said. "We're responding to what we've heard from consumers about wanting choices. At the same time, we're trying to be good environmental stewards."

The utilities commission requires phone providers to deliver a directory about once every year. AT&T wants to change that requirement so that it is only required to "publish" the listings.

Metcalf said internal research shows that customers rarely use the White Pages as they increasingly turn to the Internet for basic phone listings. If all customers in Raleigh and Charlotte switched to the Web-based version, AT&T estimates that it will save 4 million pounds of waste each year.

Metcalf declined to say how much money the company will save by changing the service.

36 Comments

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  • Iseeu Sep 29, 2007

    I dumped mine in the bin for old recycled phone books the next day after they arrived, It's crazy to waste all that paper and you don't get just one white pages phone book you get 2 or 3 from different phone companies. let people ask for one if they want it, most people I know agree with me.

  • QT3.14 Sep 29, 2007

    These are the WHITE pages we're talking about. I certainly don't want the things, or even the yellow pages for that matter. It is a waste of paper and printing. People just want to complain about any change. If you can request a phone book still, what is the problem?

  • alwayslovingu30 Sep 28, 2007

    Well they must have dug A bigger hole than they can manage they cant keep up with the bills so they are trying to get rid of phone books alot of elderly will go without A phone book they dont no what A computer is they will be left out but at&t dont care they cant figure out to order A book you have to send it to themyou dug A hole an now you cant get out so your cutting cost to save your A just like our crooked a state an goverment

  • Joe Sep 28, 2007

    I pay over $800 a month (or over $9,600 a year) for Raleigh's AT&T Yellow Pages advertising. They print several hundred thousand Yellow Pages directories WHICH also compensates for the costs of the residential white pages. The vast majority of my customers use the actual phone book to find my ad; they don't use the Internet. I know this is about stopping delivery of the white pages for residential, but I think a lot more people use the white pages than the Internet.

  • Fun Sep 28, 2007

    Ederly need phone books

  • k9sandQtrs Sep 28, 2007

    I can't remember the last time I used a phone book!

  • tybstar Sep 28, 2007

    This is a great idea. It would save so much paper and delivery costs, and I wouldn't have to keep finding ways to dispose of the stupid things that show up at my door every few months.

  • Dr Holliday Sep 28, 2007

    I think it would be great if everyone just gave up the telephone and pc. Then we wouldn't need AT&T anymore. Americans would save billions,no more AT&T.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 28, 2007

    And as an adjunct to dmc facitious question, this only affects white pages distribution, now yellow pages. The phone companies make a fortune off of yellow pages.

    Having said that, my proposal only works for on line lookups. Nowadays, cell phones can be from anywhere. And with number portability, I suspect you will see in the very near future people being able to retire from Oregon to North Carolina and still retain their Oregon number. That makes it pretty much impossible to maintain a hard copy white pages since the process wil no longer be automatic from the address standpoint. They would have to pull numbers off the switch information and, with the transient nature of our society, that would make any white pages obsolete rather quickly especially when college students are involved.

    White page hard copies are great for stable, small towns, but break down quickly in larger, transient cities.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 28, 2007

    Here is what I would love to see.

    Every number is listed, even presently unlisted ones and cell phones. Then there is a privacy setting that the owner of the phone can enable which prevents any incoming call from ringing the phone. Any call dumps immediately to voice mail. If the owner of the number would like the caller to be able to contact them, they give the caller a five digit passcode. The next time the caller dials the number, they use the passcode. The first time they use the number-owner passcode, it goes to a config menu that allows them to change that code to one the caller uses for all their private numbers contacts. From that point onward, anytime the caller dials that number, they put in their private passcode and it goes through.

    An additional feature would be that if the caller made three attempts to contact the number-owner and the owner did not respond, the number would no longer accept any calls -- even to voicemail -- from that caller number again.

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